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John Griffiths is a widely respected rugby historian and is the author of several sports books, including The Book of English International Rugby, The Book of International Rugby Records, British Lions, The Five Nations Championship, Rugby's Strangest Matches and Rugby's Greatest Characters. He was a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph for 19 years and is co-author of the IRB International Rugby Yearbook. He has also provided insight for Scrum.com since 1999.
Ask John
Chris Ashton's scoring record, Gareth Edwards' replacements and Welsh fly-halves wearing No.10
John Griffiths
February 28, 2011

Welcome to the latest edition of Ask John where renowned rugby historian John Griffiths will answer any rugby-related query you have!

So, if there's something you've always wanted to know about the game we love but didn't know who to ask, or you think you can stump our expert - then get involved by sending us a question.

In this edition John answers questions on Chris Ashton's scoring record, Gareth Edwards' replacements, the 1961 French reunion and Welsh fly-halves wearing No.10.

With his foursome against Italy Chris Ashton reached nine tries for England in only nine Tests. How many Englishmen have reached that milestone in fewer games? Steve Ridge, England

Ashton is the quickest to reach this mark in terms of time, reflecting the fact that nowadays matches take place more frequently, but stands joint-third (with England team-mate, Mark Cueto) on a list which takes matches played into account.

Fastest to reach nine Test tries for England:

Chris Ashton, 329 days: 20/3/2010-12/02/2011
Dan Luger, 335 days: 14/11/1998-15/10/1999
Mark Cueto, 364 days: 13/11/2004-12/11/2005

Fewest Tests to reach nine tries for England

Jerry Guscott, seven Tests, in 1990
Arthur Hudson, eight, in 1910
Mark Cueto, nine, in 2005
Chris Ashton, nine, in 2011
Cyril "Kid" Lowe, 12, in 1920
Dan Luger, 13, in 1999
Ben Cohen, 13, in 2001

How many times did Gareth Edwards have to be replaced during his Test career? Peter Jones, Wales

The former Wales scrum-half started 53 successive Tests for his country between 1967 and 1978 and required substitution for injury only twice. At Twickenham in 1970 he had to go off when Wales were trailing 13-6 against England. Ray "Chico" Hopkins of Maesteg was the sub and played a blinder, feeding JPR Williams for a try and scoring an important one himself to turn the game. Wales eventually won 17-13.

It is worth noting that that Hopkins' try was awarded by a substitute referee. Robert Calmet of France had to withdraw with a leg injury at half-time and was replaced by RF "Johnnie" Johnson, the English touch-judge, who took control of the second half.

The only other occasion Gareth Edwards was replaced for Wales was in November 1973 when he tweaked a hamstring in the dying stages of their match against Australia. The Aberavon scrum-half, Clive Shell, came on and touched the ball just once while winning his sole cap for Wales.

"Chico" Hopkins also replaced Edwards once in a memorable British & Irish Lions Test. In the opening match of the famous 1971 series in New Zealand there had been doubts about Edwards' fitness. He had been hampered by hamstring problems in training on the Wednesday prior to the match, but the Lions had allowed him to make his own decision regarding his fitness.

He bravely played, but at the first troublesome twinge (eight minutes into the Test) he sensibly withdrew and Hopkins came on. The Lions went on to win 9-3 and Edwards' wise decision meant that he had time to recover and play a full part in the remainder of a series that the Lions won 2-1 with one Test drawn.

I understand that the French team that held the 1961 Springboks to a famous 0-0 draw had a 50th anniversary reunion at the recent France-Scotland game in Paris. How many of the side survive? T Nicholson, England

That famous match, played on February 18, 1961, was the first time that a Five Nations side had held the Springboks in Europe since 1906. The game was a tough, uncompromising battle expertly handled by Gwynne Walters of Wales, the smallest referee on the Test circuit. Walters went on to become the world's "most-capped" international referee and held that distinction for many years.

Among that French team at the recent anniversary celebrations (for which they were joined by members of the 1981 Grand Slam side) were flanker Michel Crauste and outside-half Pierre Albaladejo, who both looked remarkably fit when they took the field to greet the crowd at half-time.

Sadly seven of the 1961 vintage have died: the centres Guy Boniface and Jacky Bouquet, fullback Michel Vannier, the two props Amédée Domenech and Alfred Roques, lock Jean-Pierre Saux and wing three-quarter Jean Dupuy.

Who was the first Welsh fly-half to wear No.10 on his jersey? Anon

Numbering began in Australia and New Zealand in the late 1890s, but not just for spectators' benefit. Pirate programmes were a curse for years; numbering was seen as a way of out-witting them. "Only official programmes carry the correct numbers for players," was the advert in the press and around grounds on matchdays. That's why numbering was so fickle until the 1960s.

The first tourists brought numbering to the Home Unions - Wales numbered from fullback to forwards for the famous 1905 game against New Zealand, with Percy Bush, the Welsh fly-half, in jersey 7. Otherwise numbering was virtually unused in the north.

It wasn't until the Wales v England game in 1922 that opposing sides wore numbers in a Five Nations match for the first time, Willie Bowen at fly-half for Wales wearing jersey 7. Wales were numbered throughout the '20s, the fly-half shirt changing to 6 by 1930. For the Scotland-Wales match in 1930 neither side wore numbers but for the Wales-Ireland 1930 match the Welsh fly-half, Frank Williams, was wearing letter F. That was the first time letters were worn in an international.

Wales wore letters throughout the '30s and '40s. Cliff Jones was in letter F against the All Blacks in 1935 while Haydn Tanner, his partner at scrum-half, never wore a number on his back in his long career with Wales, always appearing with the letter G on his jersey. Tanner's last match, against France in 1949, was the last when letters adorned Welsh shirts with Glyn Davies at fly-half in letter F. It was back to numbers in 1950 with Billy Cleaver in jersey 6 for England v Wales at Twickenham, and Cliff Morgan always wore 6 in his playing days (1951-58).

The last Welsh fly-half to wear 6 was Swansea's Bryan Richards in his only Welsh match, against France in 1960. When Wales opened the 1960-61 season with the famous monsoon match at Cardiff against the Springboks in December, they had converted to the system of numbering from front row to fullback and Ken Richards was the first Wales fly-half to wear jersey 10 in a cap international.

Welsh fly-halves have worn 10 ever since, though it wasn't until 1967 that the IRB laid down the system for the numbering of players that continues to today.

There is a story in my family that my Kiwi grandfather played a Test match for the All Blacks during World War II. His name is William (Bill) Goss. He served in the Royal Navy at the time. Are you able to find out if this is true? Louise Goss, Australia

Alas, having searched the New Zealand Test database and records of those who have played first-class rugby in New Zealand there is no trace of a Bill Goss. During World War II it was common for members of the services to play impromptu matches under the heading "New Zealand Forces" - he could have played under that banner, but there is no official record of any appearances that would have been classified in New Zealand as being of first-class status.

Do you have details of the England Schools (18 group) Grand Slam matches in 1997? Anon

The 1997 England Schools team picked up their third Grand Slam in four years. Geoff Wappett was the successful coach. The results were as follows:

March 22, 1997, England 20-10 France, Twickenham
Scorers: Tries: Brading, Best Conversions: Wilkinson (2) Penalty Goals: Wilkinson (2)

March 29, 1997, Ireland 9-16 England, Dublin
Scorers: Tries: Brading, Best Penalty Goals: Wilkinson (2)

April 8, 1997, England 55-18 Scotland, Preston
Scorers: Tries: Tindall (2), Roques (2), Wilkinson, Mears, Sheridan, Dawson Conversions: Wilkinson (6) Penalty Goal: Wilkinson

April 12, 1997, Wales 17-18 England, Narberth
Scorers: Tries: Tindall (2) Conversion: Wilkinson Penalty Goal: Wilkinson Drop Goal: Wilkinson

Tony Roques led the team from blindside in the first three games and Jonny Wilkinson did so at Narberth, where his late drop-goal against Wales secured the Grand Slam. Many of the side went on to win full senior England honours. Mike Tindall, Wilkinson and Andrew Sheridan were in Martin Johnson's 22 for last Saturday's match against France.

Squad:

Fullback: IR Balshaw (Stonyhurst College) F, I, S; LM Best (Durham School) W

Threequarters: LM Best (Durham School) F, I, S; PC Greenaway (Colston's Collegiate) S(R),W; TE Southall (Poynton HS) F, S; MJ Tindall (QEGS Wakefield) F(R), I, S, W; SD Brading (Bedford School) F, I, S, W; TA May (Tonbridge School) F, I, W; SAmor (Hampton School) W (R).

Halfbacks: JP Wilkinson (Lord Wandsworth) F, I, S, W; DJR Smaje (RGS High Wycombe) F; J Grindal (King Henry VIII, Coventry) I, S, W

Forwards: DL Flatman (Dulwich College) F, I, S, W; A Hubbleday (King Edward VI, Five Ways) F, S(R); LA Mears (Colston's Collegiate) I, S, W; J Dawson (Dulwich College) F, I, S, W; R Siveter (Colston's Collegiate) S(R); AJ Sheridan (Dulwich College) F, I, S, W; SW Borthwick (Huttom GS) F, I, S, W; AWS Roques (Sevenoaks School) F, I, S; M McCarrick (Sevenoaks School) F, I, S, W; AJ Beattie (Hampton School) F, I, S, W; A Sanderson (Kirkham GS) I(R); R Holmes (Norwich School) W; S Williams (Colston's Collegiate) W(R); DA Giles (Kirkham GS) S(R)

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